STORIES OF 2016 PT 2
By Tammy Callis
There are so many stories of God’s presence and provision for the families that God is bringing into the Garden Kids Ministry. The Bailey family is just one of those stories. Gail Bailey is a single mom with three beautiful kids who have the most contagious smiles. Her oldest child has special needs which makes her work load as a mom even heavier. She has fallen on hard times and their family is currently living in a motel across the street from Franklin Middle School, where we hold our Sunday services. She had no idea that there was a church that met there but she was invited by a regular attender. She says she has never met a group of people that have so quickly shown her such love and grace. She expressed that she usually feels judged and condemned but she has never once encountered that at the Garden. When she first walked in, she instantly felt the Holy Sprit and said, “God’s love and presence is all over this place.” Her kids look forward to Sunday and run in with big smiles and hug every teacher they see. They usually prefer to sit on someones lap the entire service. I can see that they revel and flourish in being told and shown how perfectly God has made them and how much they are loved. Gail has been able to connect with others in the community. She told us she carried such heavy anxiety about having enough money to pay her motel rent each week and the church has been able to bless her financially and help her with that rent on a few occasions and more importantly just bare the burden with her so she’s not alone. Gail loves the Lord and it’s such a privilege to show her and her kids God’s love in rough times. Her family’s presence in Garden kids is such a light and blessing to us all!
My name is Amie Schmidgall and I am the youth director at the garden. I want to share a story about Samuel, a sophomore at McBride High School. My husband and I met Sammy last spring through Young Life. He came with us to summer camp in June and at Young Life camp he began a relationship with Jesus. After camp, my husband and I invited him to come to the Garden since he and his mom didn’t go to church. He has been very active in our youth program coming to youth gatherings every Sunday and bible study on Wednesday nights.
I asked Sammy why he kept coming back to the Garden and he said, ” Although I believed in God I didn’t know much about about Jesus or who he was or what he did. So I wanted to come to learn more and grow in my faith. What I really enjoy about the Garden youth is that we are all a family. Sometimes we have our differences, but we all have one thing in common, we believe in Jesus. And the games are fun too. We play lot of dodge ball, kick ball and football. The leaders share stories from the bible and help us understand it more. But, what I love most about the Garden is the leaders and when they share their life stories. Some of them have had really hard lives, worse than mine and they are always there to help us overcome things.”
I have had the opportunity to walk with Sammy and see him receive healing in his relationships, have more drive at school, more joy, and he is consistently bringing friends to youth events. One of his friends he invited made a decision to follow Jesus on our drive home after a bible study! What I love about Sammy’s story is how much God is using the youth leaders at the Garden. Our focus is to build relationships with youth throughout Long Beach and help them grow in their faith. Having leaders who are passionate about getting to know every kid is a true reflection of God’s heart.
Like Sammy, many youth I meet are interested in coming to church, they just have never been invited or have adults in their life who encourage it. My prayer is to meet kids in Long Beach and invite them into what Sammy described as “a family” and introduce them to leaders who are willing and able to disciple them. Our youth ministry is full of non and new believers like Sammy. With that in mind we are always taking time to teach the basics of our faith. Teens have prayed out loud for the first time, experienced the Holy Spirit or have shared that God’s love felt real for the first time. As we meet more students throughout Long Beach we will continue to walk with them wherever they are at in their journey.
More from Amie, our Youth Director.
What comes to mind when you think of Franklin Middle School? When I am playing games in the gym at youth on Sunday’s or listening to a sermon in the auditorium it’s easy to forget that the space we worship God on Sunday is a middle school that during the week is filled with kids. I went to Franklin at 3:40 on a weekday when the bell rings and the hall filled with students and I saw so many faces of students who probably don’t know that on Sundays their classrooms are used for kids ministry, their stage is used for worship, and their foursquare & basketball courts are a parking lot.
As a youth pastor I want to go where kids are. So, we are building a team of adults & high school students who are passionate about the Franklin neighborhood and want to get on campus to meet students. In February, we will be launching Wyldlife, a middle school outreach program through Young Life that focuses on unchurched students and presenting the gospel to them in a way that they can understand. We will have club every other Friday night a few hours after school gets out. Kids can come and play games, eat food and hear stories of who Jesus is and how much God loves them.
I asked Franco Perez a 16 year old student (and Franklin alumni) who is involved in our youth program to help lead this. I gave him a challenge of meeting 25 students before we launch in February. He accepted the challenge and has a notebook to record the names and some fun facts as he meets kids in the neighborhood. We have been going on campus meeting & supporting teachers, helping with after school clubs, going to school events & sporting events all with the intention of meeting kids in their environment, on their turf.
Once we launch Wyldlife in the Spring, my goal is to present kids an accurate and compelling picture of who Jesus is and introduce them to a group of adults and high schoolers who care about them. My hope is that every kid will have the opportunity to make a decision for themselves to follow Jesus.
We have an opportunity to introduce many young people to Jesus and see more of God’s Kingdom come to Long Beach, and more of God’s Kingdom to come to Franklin Middle School. You have probably heard that we use the filter of “does this lead the lost towards Jesus and our church towards the lost” when deciding what we should focus on as a church. Will you join us by praying for the lost students at Franklin Middle school?